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ASEAN kings Malaysia face testing World Cup campaign


31-Mar-2011
AFF Suzuki Cup champions Malaysia face a tough passage to the final rounds of Asian qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The Tigers, who beat Indonesia in the two-legged final last December to lift the AFF Suzuki Cup for the first time, have been drawn against Chinese Taipei in the first round.

If the young Malaysian side that came of age under coach K. Rajagopal in the Asean showdown manage to overcome that hurdle they will play cross-Straits rivals Singapore in the second round.

"Our main priority is one game at a time. I'm building a team for the future, a team that will qualify for the Asian Cup in Australia in 2015," said Rajagopal.

Three-time winners Singapore disappointed at the last edition of the AFF Suzuki Cup, falling at the group stage, and will be keen to redeem themselves with victory over the new champions in the home and away encounter.

Indonesia, the first Asian team to participate in the World Cup when they qualified for the 1938 tournament under the name Dutch East Indies, take on Turkmenistan in the second round.

The Philippines will be looking to build on their unlikely sweep to the semi-finals of the AFF Suzuki Cup with a good run during the World Cup qualifying campaign. They will play Sri Lanka in the first round with Kuwait awaiting the winners.

Vietnam, who lost coach Henrique Calisto after their semi-final defeat to Malaysia in the AFF Suzuki Cup, should have few worries against lowly Macau in the first round but their resolve will be tested by Asian Cup quarter-finalists Qatar in the second round.

Thailand, coached by former England and Manchester United captain Bryan Robson, will play either Afghanistan or Palestine in the second round with Myanmar taking on Mongolia in the first round before a potential clash with Oman.

Laos and Cambodia will meet in the first round, a repeat of their AFF Suzuki Cup qualifier, which ended 0-0 last year. The reward to the victors will be a plum tie with China.

First round matches are scheduled for June 29 and July 3 with the second round on July 23 and July 28.